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My class & I have been talking about global warming and the effects it has on our climate over time. Recently, NPR, a National Public Radio station did a story on carbon sequestration in Norway. We are wondering what the long term effects/possible hazards will be of this. Could this solve our global warming problem? What would happen if all of a sudden all this carbon dioxide were to escape? Any information on how this process works and the effects on the environment would help, too. Thanks!
Question Date: 2007-12-18
Answer 1:

Well, to begin with, global warming is sufficiently poorly understood that to claim to know how to solve it can only be described as hubris. We don't even know how much of it is natural. We know for a fact that the sun has been getting brighter over the past few centuries, and that is heating up the Earth (it's why we came out of the Little Ice Age). Nobody under stands the Sun's cycles very well, but the Earth does seem to have a warm-cold cycle with a period of about 800-1000years, and during the last cold period, at least, the sun was slightly less active than it is at present.

The increased amount of carbon in the atmosphere released as a result of fossil fuel consumption is no doubt warming the Earth's climate, but we don't know how much. Sequestering carbon by burying it in peat and swamps is something that has been suggested to combat what influences humans are having on climate, but in practice, it remains a challenge. It's basically the same idea as making fossil fuels in the first place. If it backfires and all of that plant matter decomposes, then the carbon will wind up right back in the atmosphere, and we will be back where we started. Can it be done on such a scale that it will reduce carbon levels despite continuing to burn current fossil fuels? Almost certainly not.

Bottom line, we're a long way from solving any of our climate "problems". We don't even know how much of a problem it is yet!

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